The Long and Winding Path
Before the journey found me back in 1985, I’d been unhappy for a long time. Never comfortable in my own skin from early childhood, I’d grown up neurotic, anxious, snarky, insecure and utterly lacking in self-confidence. By the time I reached my early 30’s I was newly out of law school, didn’t like the law and was pretty thoroughly miserable My constant whining and complaining led to more than one friend gently questioning whether I’d considered therapy.
One friend had been seeing a transpersonal psychologist who worked with meditations, past life therapy, etc. and I knew immediately that was the direction for me. Soon I was immersed in reading The Nature of Personal Reality, repeating affirmations from Shakti Gawain, meditating, asking myself what beliefs I held that created this or that reality, etc. I felt like I’d found home for the first time.
Initially it was like diving into heaven and I lapped up everything, living a life of odd contrasts, with weekend meditation classes and weekly yoga classes alternating with a law job and riding the el downtown every day to be stressed out and tense. With beginner’s hubris, I blithely assumed my new path would have everything turned around in no time. And for a while a lot of things DID fall into place.
However, I slowly came to understand some health problems I’d been experiencing were far worse than I realized and around the same time that realization landed I also hit a wall in my casual progress toward higher consciousness and/or creating the life I dreamed. A combination of alternative therapies and my new-found spiritual journey led to a slow comprehension of the intertwining of my health issues, emotional issues and spiritual issues.
This phase started around 29 years ago and the progress on every front since then has been slow and painstaking. For a while I had 4 kinds of bodywork/alternative therapies going at once and several practitioners who constantly criticized me for “holding on” or “refusing to let go”. If a practitioner talks to me that way now I find another practitioner, but at the time I felt like I was doing something wrong though I had no idea how to make something release – especially a lot of somethings that were deeply buried mysteries.
One of my beefs about New Age thinking (which also has aspects I love) is this tendency to expect to do a couple of exercises or practices and be miraculously “done”. Since I started out in a more-or-less New Age path I already had this tendency so it was easily fed by having lots of practitioners, teachers and fellow-journeyers constantly chiding me for not moving fast enough.
Fortunately, I also had a few teachers who thought I moved deeper and faster than most which helped my eventual understanding that the journey is one of a lifetime, has nuances that arise and fall away in a never-ending cycle and few people ever achieve total enlightenment in incarnation and your speed of progress is your speed of progress and not anyone else’s business.
The total mess my muscles were in has improved enormously but even this largely fixable issue has been far more complex and tough to heal than I could ever have imagined. For a long time the many types of massage involving digging deep into the knotted up, tangled up mess were so painful I referred to it as “paying $50 (long time ago) to be tortured every week”.
After going through a long and very thorough version of the Fisher Hoffman Process, I felt I had dug out so much emotional drek that hopefully only smaller issues were left but it turned out there was plenty more. And then a few years before “ancestral healing” became a big thing I realized ancestral issues influenced a great deal of my stuckness, including some of the muscle patterns.
It’s taken years more of work to clear some of the ancestral pieces and set more of the hold-out muscles free. I’m by nature somewhat impatient and the long tedious, intricate process of working through all these many issues and all these structural problems has been a huge challenge.
Of necessity my life hasn’t looked anywhere close to normal and while the changes to my body and the transformations to my beingness and personality have been dramatic, from the outside my life has been in a holding pattern and in terms of the jobs and income and assets by which most people count their worth I have accomplished nothing. Which people find ways to tell me all the time.
Long, frustrating, painful … and also miraculous and exciting… and tedious… The journey is dark nights and digging deep punctuated with moments of light and miracles. I chose the beginning and the long and tedious rest because they exemplify aspects of the journey. I’ve watched many people see The Secret or attend a workshop and jump on the path with excitement and an assumption that if they just say a few affirmations and meditate or follow a few rules they will transform their lives.
Every now and then someone who’s managed to grow up with few issues makes a fast turnaround and many more can experience some kind of change (fueled I imagine by the excitement and the opening that creates) but many who start this journey with expectations of fast progress and an end point wind up disappointed or frustrated and many give up.
There are others who come to understand it takes more time but don’t understand the time may be the rest of your life, that progress is up and down and often something painful must be addressed before upward movement begins again. I find the hardest thing is being able to count my victories released muscle by released muscle, changed habit or personality trait by habit or trait, opening by opening.
My body is more flexible and in shape than most people my age. I’ve moved from introverted to fairly extroverted and friendly. From a person who discouraged people from chatting with me to one who chats everywhere I go. From anxious and keyed up to serene and calm. From lacking self-confidence to being confident and comfortable in my own skin. From routinely negative to routinely positive. From seeing separation to seeing and believing in oneness.
It’s a challenge to be on a looonngg journey that to many people looks like running in place and stay centered in the midst of their beliefs about my strange journey. That’s the journey. Personal, yours and yours alone. Dark and light. Wouldn’t trade it for another for anything.
Leigh Gaitskill has a BA in history and an MA in sociology from Northwestern University and a JD from the University of Washington School of Law. Her spiritual journey began in 1985 when a transpersonal psychologist introduced her to meditation, metaphysics and the principle that you create your own reality with your thoughts. She went on to Nine Gates Mystery School, the Fischer-Hoffman Process, sat with a Vipassana group, studied with a Hopi elder and studied with several Huna teachers.
She’s been practicing yoga since 1986 and earned a teaching certificate at Chicago’s Temple of Kriya Yoga in 1988. Some years ago she re-worked portions of Robert Masters’ Psychophysical Method into sets and combined them with complementary yoga postures which she teaches as Flowing Body, Flowing Life. She’s been blogging since 2011 at Not Just Sassy on the Inside.
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Written for the From Darkness to Light event. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more information Here. But first, leave a comment and let Leigh know what you think about her words, and be sure to visit her over at Not Just Sassy on the Inside when you’re done.